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It’s November and the yurt is pierced with cold. We’ve entered the darkest season of the year. Night falls long before you want it and sticks around long after its welcome is worn out. The worst part is that this isn’t even the worst part. For the next four weeks — the weeks of Advent — the days will get shorter and shorter yet.

We’re not without comforts, though. I’m sitting right now with a crackling fire in the dark — so close to the little black pot bellied stove you might think I was trying to sit on it. The kids are asleep behind me, all together one more time in this little, round room. And — now that he’s back from ten days in California — my husband is, too.

Nick’s absence is always such a stark reminder of my shortcomings. I would never have made half these choices on my own, and when he’s gone I feel that rather deeply. The water lines froze, as they do every year. I didn’t get a shower and didn’t drain the water lines and the kids and I got more and more grumpy with one another. Last night I said to them, “Now we’re closing this chapter of our lives. Tomorrow we get to start another one.”

This was one of my mother’s superpowers. She would always say, “Tomorrow is another day.” Or if things were really bad she would say, “I’m turning over a new leaf.” She knew a lot about grace. Which is super annoying if you want to stay mad at someone, but nearly a miracle if you don’t.

While Nick was gone we split our flock of yellow chickens and gave half away. They’re in a good home. Another part of the darkest season of the year is tightening down.

Next we’ll move the ducks off the pond into the barn. It turns out our little duck hen isn’t a hen. haha. It happened so suddenly! We were just sure she was a girl, but she for sure isn’t. Now he’s Mr. Young Duck and as such probably somewhere on the holiday menu.

oops.

We long for the holidays just as we long for snow. The snow reflects light and literally brightens the dark of winter. You never want it until it’s cold and dreary enough that you might as well have it and then you want it more than anything. Come on snow, come coat the ugliness, even just for a day! Come, and cover everything ugly up with white. It is a real magic, though a temporary one.

Winter is brutal for the challenge of it, but never was there a better season for tending the garden of the soul. As Christians for four weeks we will tend to the waiting and anticipation. Hope, peace, love, and joy become little flames in the dark…little points of light in a whole wide world of darkness. We watch them build and coalesce and point to the source of light. We re-enact and re-imagine the coming of Christ to heal our souls. And then we celebrate…as light breaks through the dark.

It seems each year like it might not come, but it always does.

This year, many of us feel, we’ve never needed it more.

For our little yurt family the winter holidays are rich in food and ritual, but meager in everything else. The cabin is still not set up enough to have a party, though some brave members of my family were ready to make the trek. Instead we’ll be quiet and still, just us, in our half-finished cabin under these trees that moan slightly in the winter wind.

We’ll sing and we’ll eat and drink. And we’ll hope, fiercely, the way you have to hope these days. We’ll gather up our tiny points of light and let them build and grow. And then we will wait — fierce, but also fiercely humble — for the light to return.

Tomorrow is a new day. It’s nearly here. On this day I am beginning a new chapter. For me it will include moving up into the cabin we’ve been dreaming/building since our Sadie was just crawling. It will include Advent, the breathless anticipation of the Christ child, and the first snow of the year. It might include some sledding and hot chocolate…and some snow shoveling. It will not be perfect. But it will be another chance for me to do what I can.

Wishing you all hope, peace, love and joy…or at least some candles. Wishing you all moments to disconnect from a fast paced world, and my mother’s superpower for starting up again and again, and the magic that can heal even the most bruised heart.

With love, from the yurt,
Esther